Procurement: Chinese Roads and Gunships In Africa

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January 15, 2010: Kenya has received the first two (of four) Chinese Z-9WA helicopter gunships. The Z-9 is a license built version of the French AS 365N Dauphin. It's a four ton chopper with a two ton payload. China has built over 200 of the Z-9s and many have been armed (with twin 23mm cannon, torpedoes, anti-tank missiles and air-to-air missiles.) The WA model has two stub wings that can carry weapons (eight missiles or two 12.7mm machine-gun pods, or 57mm or 90mm unguided rocket pods). The two Z-9s for Kenya are the first export orders for this model. Kenya will probably arm them with machine-guns and rockets. Providing gunships for Kenya is part of a larger economic effort it is making in Africa. China is paying for $7 million in infrastructure construction in Kenya, which makes it easier to trade with China. China also has a contract to upgrade the Kenyan railroad that goes into Uganda.

The Z-9WA can also carry up to eight TY-90 air-to-air missiles. The TY-90 is a modified version of a shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile, designed specifically to be carried by helicopters, for use against enemy helicopters. The TY-90 weighs 44 pounds and has a range of 6,000 meters. It has a relatively large, 6.6 pound, warhead designed to bring down helicopters or aircraft.

China also offers an air launched anti-ship missile, the TL-10, for the Z-9 helicopter gunship. The missile was apparently developed in cooperation with Iran (which calls it the Kosar). The TL-10 is a 240 pound missile, with a 65 pound warhead. It has a range of about 18 kilometers. The TL-10 has been in use for a few years, and the latest version, the TL-10C is believed to have a fire and forget guidance system (based on onboard radar).

The TL-10 can be lethal for smaller (under 500 tons) ships, but can do a lot of damage to larger ships. The Z-9D, armed with four TL-10 missiles, could be used to attack patrol boats.

 

 


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